What are the top graphic design school programs in Michigan for 2021?

Top 10 Michigan Graphic Design Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing
2College for Creative StudiesDetroit
3University of Michigan-FlintFlint
4Wayne State UniversityDetroit
5Ferris State University Grand Rapids
6Grand Valley State UniversityAllendale
7Central Michigan UniversityMount Pleasant
8Western Michigan UniversityKalamazoo
9Eastern Michigan UniversityYpsilanti
10Calvin UniversityGrand Rapids

Our 2021 ranking of the top graphic design school programs in Michigan. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University

Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) serves nearly 50,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 17 degree-granting colleges. The school, which sits on one of the biggest and greenest campuses in the nation, lists notable alumni such as NBA legend Magic Johnson, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, celebrated actor James Caan, and film director/producer/writer/actor Sam Raimi.

MSU’s College of Arts & Letters, Department of Art, Art History, and Design, offers a BFA and a 15 credit hour Minor in Graphic Design. An MFA that allows students to select a track such as Graphic Design is also available.

The BFA program offers the unique opportunity for students to gain real-world design experience by providing design services to the community. “MSU's Design Center in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design works with internal and external clients to effectively communicate the client's messages in a professional manner,” says the school. “From logos to packaging, and brochures to websites, Design Center has worked on a variety of projects, each specifically targeted to address the goal and personality of an individual client.”

Undergraduate students who “exemplify creativity, dedication, and professionalism in the Graphic Design Program” are selected to join the Design Center creative team each year.

Other program highlights include AIGA membership, internship opportunities, and the Annual Visiting Artist & Scholar Lecture Series. Past lecturers include Martin Venezky, Ben Fry, Jim Sherraden of Hatch Showprint, Stuart Bailey, Jan Wilker, Cheryl Towler Weese, Hans Allemann, Karen Cheng, Nancy Skolos & Tom Wedell, James Victore, Andrew Blauvelt.

MSU Graphic Design alumni are Art Directors, Creative Directors, Freelancers, Graphic Designers and Video Editors with advertising agencies, design firms, in-house design offices, production studios, publishing companies, and more.

2. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
College for Creative Studies

The idea for the College for Creative Studies (CCS) dates back to 1906 when a group of local civic leaders established the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. Members began teaching informal classes in basic design, drawing, and woodcarving and in 1911, and they opened a gallery where student and prominent modern artists could display and sell their work.

In 1926 and with an enrollment of 280 students, the Society became one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, four-year program in art under the name Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts.

Today, CCS is a private, fully accredited college offering BFA and MFA degrees to more than 1,400 students. With an enrollment of 114 students, the Graphic Design Department is one of the top five largest departments at CCS. Degree options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Communication Design (Graphic Design). Degrees that complement Graphic Design include BFAs in Advertising: Copywriting, Advertising: Design, and Fine Arts.

The BFA in Communication Design (Graphic Design) covers print, motion and interaction. In fall 2021, the degree will become a STEM-designated program for all entering students.

The current program begins with the core principles of print-based graphic design. This includes color, hierarchy, image, messaging, and typography. Students will “merge what they’ve learned with the language of code in order to build media and create interactive environments on a wide variety of platforms.” Course highlights for the program include 2D Design, 3D Techniques, Advanced Communication Design, Business Practices, Concepts & Methods/Visual Culture, Digital Techniques, Interaction I-III, Typography I-III, Visual Culture, and Visual Narration: Africa/America, and Visual Narration: Asia.

Other program highlights include the opportunity to study abroad for a semester or a year in places such as Austria, Australia, Germany, Mexico, and Paris; internship opportunities at places such as Chrysler, Converse, Foote Cone & Belding, FUSE, Microsoft, Quicksilver, Reebok, Urban Outfitters, and Whirlpool; and one of the highest post-graduate employment rates in the country.

Graduates of the Communication Design (Graphic Design) Program at CCS are prepared to pursue a wide range of job titles such as Advertising Designer, Brand manager, Creative Director, Editorial Designer, Graphic Designer, Interaction Designer, Interactive Art Director, Mobile Media Designer, Social Media Director, User Experience Designer (UX), User Interface Designer (UI), Visual Designer, and Web Designer.

Many CCS Design alumni are entrepreneurs who open their own design studios across the country and the globe, including Los Angeles, New York City, the Netherlands, and in of course, in Detroit.

3. University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, Michigan
University of Michigan-Flint

Founded in 1956, University of Michigan-Flint (UM-Flint) opened with 167 students. Today, the school serves more than 7,000 students enrolled in more than 100 programs in six colleges and schools. The College of Arts & Sciences houses the Department of Art & Art History, which offers an Art and Design BFA and a 21 credit hour Minor in Graphic Design.

The BFA in Art and Design has a Specialization in Graphic Design. “The program begins with a series of foundation courses stressing the development of technical, problem-solving and conceptual skills,” says the school. “Each student’s growth and development are achieved through exposure to multiple media, concluding with the production of a professional portfolio” in the Specialization.  

Before students begin the Specialization courses, they will take the Design Core consisting of 12 credit hours. Courses include Design II: Image and Motion Design, Design III: Spatial and Temporal Design, Design IV: Interaction Design, and Digital Imaging Design. Courses for the Specialization in Graphic Design include Branding Design, Business and Visual Communications Design, Design Studio for the Community, Motion Graphics, Typography II, and Web Design.

In addition to completing a portfolio, students will have the opportunity to complete an internship. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue careers in the Graphic Design Industry and many others.

4. Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
Wayne State University

Wayne State University (WSU) was founded in 1868 as The Detroit Medical College. Serving 24,155 students, WSU is one of the 50 largest public universities in the United States. The school offers nearly 350 degree and certificate programs through 13 schools and colleges.

The College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts houses the Department of Art and Art History, which offers a BFA in Design. The program has four Concentration options including Fashion, Graphic, Industrial, and Interior Design.

The Graphic Design Concentration requires 45 credit hours in design courses, eighteen of which must be at the advanced level (courses numbered 3000 and above). Course highlights include Graphic Design I: Principles and Problem Solving, Graphic Design II: Word, Image, and Visual Organization, History of Graphic Design, and Typography.

During the final year of the program, students will complete Senior Seminar (AGD 5260) and Senior Studio (AGD 5997). An optional internship is part of the program and may be completed in the student’s junior or senior year.

5. Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ferris State University

Founded in 1928, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) is a college within Ferris State University. The school serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. This includes a BFA in Graphic Design.

Students begin the program by “exploring foundational design elements such imagery and visualization; typography and voice; the power of color, composition, and grid; and concept and content development; creating meaningful messages and bringing stories to life that challenge, educate, inspire, and entertain,” says the school.

Program highlights include collaborative projects, an integrative learning environment, instruction using the latest industry-standard software applications, critique and presentation of ideas and finished work, and professional experience such as an internship, course-driven professional project, or study abroad experience. Students will also benefit from the Graphic Design program's "strong ties" to local chapters of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the American Advertising Federation (AAF), and the Interaction Design Association (IxDA).”

Access to industry interactions, guest speakers, design forums, and other events hosted by Design West Michigan (a KCAD organization that explores and advocates for design as an economic building block in the region) are other program highlights. In addition, students can expect to take programs such as Advertising Design, Branding-Identity-Promotion, Concept Development, Digital Prepress, Graphics Studio, New Media Design, Package Design, Publication Design, and Typography.

Graduates of KCAD’s Graphic Design Program are positioned to continue their education at the graduate level or seek positions in a wide variety of areas such as advertising, branding, and design or in-house for corporations or non-profits, and freelance or contract work. Some graduates launch their own successful businesses, while others land positions in highly specialized fields such as Packaging, Publishing, and UI/UX Design.

6. Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan
Grand Valley State University

Established in 1960, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) serves more than 23,350 students from across the U.S. and 75 different countries. The school offers 138 degrees in eight colleges, including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which houses the Department of Visual & Media Arts. Here, aspiring graphic designers can earn a BFA in Studio Art with a Graphic Design Emphasis.

Required courses for the Emphasis area include Advanced Typography, Graphic Design I: Typography, Graphic Design II: Logo/Visual Identity, Graphic Design III: Print Layouts and Publications, Graphic Design IV: Experience Design, Graphic Design V: Design Issues, and Intermediate Drawing. Students will choose additional courses from a variety of Business and Studio Electives, and complete the Portfolio Course and Issues in Art (Capstone).

Other program highlights include opportunities to present work through regularly scheduled public screenings, high-impact learning experiences outside the classroom through internships and local production projects, and hands-on experience by producing projects for real clients in and outside of the classroom, BFA students will also have the opportunity to choose a Minor to strengthen their education or develop a side passion.

7. Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University (CMU) opened its doors in 1892 as the Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute. The school serves more than 27,000 campus and online students enrolled in more than 270 undergraduate and graduate programs in seven colleges. CMU also has a Global Campus with 50 locations in the United States, Mexico, and Canada

The College of the Arts and Media (CAM) houses the Department of Art and Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design. The curriculum for the program “provides students with a broad foundation of the history and theories of design, an understanding of contemporary issues facing design, experience in the development and application of conceptual ideas, and focused instruction in the use of typography, image making, and current technologies,” says the school.

Other program highlights include courses taught by recognized faculty, access to fully equipped digital studios with the latest design software, and membership in student organizations that arrange tours of design studios, participate in portfolio reviews, and organize speaker events and workshops.

BFA in Graphic Design graduates work in areas such as Advertising, Editorial, Interactive, Print, and Web in a variety of industries, institutions, companies, and non-profits.

8. Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University (WMU) was founded in 1903 as Western State Normal School. The school serves around 19,500 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in nine colleges, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine.

The College of Arts and Sciences houses the Gwen Frostic School of Art and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences is home to the Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering. Both offer programs for individuals seeking careers in graphics and graphic design.

The Frostic School offers a BFA in Graphic Design. Students in the program study “theory and history, learn to master in-studio visual communication methods, and complete an internship experience,” says the school. During the course of the program students will design architectural and directional systems, books, education materials, exhibitions, identity systems, packages, promotional materials, and signs and symbols for film, television and video, interactive computer interfaces, and other electronic media.

Working in teams, BFA students will also “develop an understanding of the business aspect of design,” and “learn how to build working relationships with writers, artists, technicians, and others from a wide variety of disciplines.” Other program highlights include the opportunity to join the AIGA Western Michigan University.

Graduates of the BFA in Graphic Design are Artists, Graphic Designers and Teachers in schools and at ad agencies, architectural firms, corporations, and record companies.

The Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering offers a unique BS degree in Graphic and Printing Science. The program provides the opportunity for students to participate in hands-on projects with local industry and qualify for departmental scholarships. Other networking opportunities are available by joining one of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences' 25 student organizations, including Graphics Arts Society, the Chemical Engineering Club and Ts'ai Lun.

Graduates of the BS program work for printing firms, ink companies, equipment and graphic arts suppliers, packaging and converting companies, and more.

9. Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) offers more than 200 undergraduate majors, minors and certificates, plus more than 150 graduate programs to a population of 19,000 students. Programs are offered through the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health and Human Services, and Engineering & Technology, along with the Graduate School and Honors College.

The College of Arts and Sciences houses the School of Art & Design, which offers BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees with a Concentration in Graphic Design. The BA is a 39-hour degree that highlights studio experiences, lecture courses, and cultural events. A Minor is required for this program and students can select from a variety of Graphic Design courses to satisfy Studio Art requirements. 

The BFA is a professional degree “designed to encourage students to develop a personal focus and direction as well as learn to function professionally as artists,” says the school. Course highlights for the program include 2D and 3D Design, Design Systems and Series, Experimental Typography, Image Making, Introduction to Graphic Design, and Typographic Systems. Students will take two Advanced Studios and 12 hours of General Studio Electives.

The MA curriculum “consists of studio courses and seminars designed to encourage experimentation and critical thinking.” “Through art history and seminar courses, MA students explore the diverse cultural influences on art, the role of the artist in society and the relationship between studio practices and art and design history.” The MA degree in Studio Art culminates in a solo or two-person exhibition.

The MFA curriculum “fosters experimentation, intellectual risk-taking, and critical thinking through studio work, seminar and cognate courses; students are expected to produce a body of original work that extends knowledge by making a proven contribution to the field.” The MFA degree is a full-time, 60-hour program that culminates in an exhibition and an optional written thesis.

10. Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Calvin University

Calvin University began in 1876 as a school of ministry training. When it opened, the school had just seven students. Today, the school serves around 3,300 students enrolled in more than 100 majors, minors and programs. The Department of Visual & Performing Arts offers a BFA and a 21 credit hour Minor in Graphic Design. An additional BFA program is available that allows students to “build on a studio art or graphic design major with more high-level classes, a focus on [the] portfolio, and additional experience,” says the school.

Students in the BFA in Graphic Design will “use visual imagery, color, and typography to solve design problems in the world.” Two Tracks allow students to focus in Business, Management, and Marketing (Track 1) or Advertising, PR, and Writing (Track 2). Course highlights for the program include Advertising and Communication Strategies, Analogue Photography, Graphic Design 1-5, Management and Organizational Behavior, Public Relations and Communication Practice, and The Craft of Writing. Graphic Design students will also complete Senior Seminar in Art, an Exhibition, and the Internship in Graphic Design. 

The BFA in Graphic Design prepares students for careers in Branding, Print Publishing, Web Design, and many others.